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What is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA)?


For Florida parents, there are few things more stressful than an intense child custody dispute. Unfortunately, in some child custody cases, disagreements between the parents can turn into a very serious situation. In fact, there are even cases where one parent will take their child across state lines, in order to try to thwart a decision made by a Florida family law court. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), a key federal law, provides critically important legal protections against this type of behavior. Here, our experienced Orlando child custody lawyer discusses the basics about the PKPA.

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act Enforces Jurisdiction 

Imagine that you have child custody order that has been issued by an Orange County, Florida family law court. You had to fight long and hard for this order, and, in its current form, it provides proper protection to you and your child. However, your former spouse, who now lives several hours to the north, across the Georgia state line, is not happy with the terms of that child custody order.

What is to stop your ex from walking into a Georgia court, and simply seeking another child custody order that is more favorable to their interests?

The answer is the PKPA. This federal law prevents out-of-state courts from issuing contradictory rulings in child custody cases. Once a case has been filed in a Florida court, the state establishes legal jurisdiction over your children and over the dispute at hand. Other state courts are legally prevented from making any other types of rulings. Courts must give full faith and credit to any already existing child custody rulings and let the process play out. Therefore, in the hypothetical example mentioned above, that Georgia court would be required to uphold the same child custody ruling you already have.

There are Limited Exceptions to the PKPA

The PKPA includes some narrow, but important, exceptions. Specifically, if there is an emergency situation, and your children are in harm’s way, the PKPA allows an out-of-state court to jump into the case and to assume jurisdiction to deal with the urgent circumstances that are threatening the child’s safety.

For example, if there is an existing child custody order in Alabama, and you fled with your children to Florida because your former spouse was physically abusing your kids, the PKPA makes an exception that allows you to access the Florida court system. Under the emergency circumstances exception, you will be able to seek a protective order for the Florida court, and to bring additional action, as is appropriate depending on the circumstances.

Get Timesharing Help in Central Florida Today

At the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., our compassionate family law team is committed to helping parents protect their rights. We have experience handling emergency child custody cases. If your child has been taken across state lines without your permission, please call us today at 407-521-7171 for immediate legal assistance. From our office in Orlando, we serve communities throughout Orange County.



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